Seventh-day Adventist historians and theologians are encouraging members worldwide to reflect on their spiritual heritage by observing two emphasis Sabbaths this month.
Spirit of Prophecy Sabbath, which celebrates the writings of early church pioneer Ellen G. White, falls on October 13. October 20 marks Adventist Heritage Sabbath. Adventists believe White exercised the gift of prophecy during her ministry.
Spirit of Prophecy Sabbath was established in the late 1930s, when the Adventist world church’s Spirit of Prophecy Committee first called for an “earnest effort” to encourage increased study of White’s published writings.
A sermon highlighting a particular aspect of White’s writings was among original recommendations for observing Spirit of Prophecy Sabbath, and the tradition continues today. This year’s sample sermon -- along with suggested hymns, scripture readings and a children’s program -- is available online through the church’s Ellen G. White Estate.
In the 1980s, Adventists began incorporating Adventist heritage elements into the celebration. Today, Adventist Heritage Sabbath falls on the Sabbath closest to October 22, when in 1844 the Millerite Movement waited expectantly for Jesus’ Second Coming, later realizing that they had misinterpreted Biblical prophecy. Their leader, a Baptist preacher named William Miller, influenced a group of believers who in 1863 established the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Spirit of Prophecy and Adventist Heritage Sabbaths provide an opportunity for all ages in the church to participate in remembering why we are Seventh-day Adventists,” said Tim Poirier, vice-director of the White Estate.
For Adventist historians, the emphasis days are also a chance to actively participate in preserving the church’s dynamic heritage.
“One of my favorite descriptions of our church was used by our early Adventist pioneers -- the Great Second Advent Movement,” said David Trim, director of the world church’s Office of Archives, Statistics and Research.
“Sometimes the way we do church tells people, ‘It’s OK to be a spectator. And actually our church is about being engaged and moving forward. Our faith isn’t something that stands still; we play an active role in transmitting it from generation to generation,” Trim said.
While acknowledging all of Adventist heritage is “daunting” -- especially on a single emphasis day -- Trim said members can participate in a tangible way by documenting the history of their own local church.
“This is the chance to go and sit down with the older members of your church. Ask them to tell their stories,” Trim said. “Every church has its own history. The history of the Adventist Church is not only the history of the worldwide denomination; it’s the history of every local church.”
Trim also said members can search an online database of Adventist books, magazines and historical documents for early references to their local church, as well as find stories of faith, commitment and sacrifice.
“So many of our church pioneers gave so much. In some ways, you end up feeling, ‘Of these we are not worthy,’” Trim said. “But I hope members come away with a sense of encouragement and inspiration.”
-- Click here to download resources for Spirit of Prophecy Sabbath
-- Click here to search a database of Seventh-day Adventist historical documents